How Long Should a Newborn Feeding Last?

How long should a newborn nurse? How do you know if a newborn baby is full or not? Get your answers here.

Mom feeding newborn

Are you wondering how long a breastfeeding session should last for a newborn?

The question of how long a baby should eat is at the forefront of every newborn mother’s mind.

Even experienced moms run through the question since every baby is different.

This is especially true for breastfeeding moms because they have no idea the number of ounces baby is eating.

There are variables that will change how long a baby will take to eat. Some of those include how much milk mom has, how fast the milk comes out, the letdown, how fast baby can drink, how strong of a sucker baby is, and how much food baby needs.

So how do you know what your individual newborn needs?

My friend who is a lactation consultant at our hospital says the only way to know for sure if baby is getting enough to eat is to get a scale–an accurate scale–and do weighing before and after feeds.

Of course, most of us can’t afford said scale, so we need other guidance.

Newborn Feedings Should Last 20-40 Minutes

People often wonder if a 10 minute feed is long enough for a newborn.

For most newborns, 10 minutes is not long enough to get a full feeding in.

Tracy Hogg says that for the first 6-8 weeks, an average-weight baby’s feeding will take 20-40 minutes (The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems, page 99).

Lactation consultants say to aim for at least 10, but preferably 15-20, minutes per side initially. When you double that (for two sides), you are looking at 20-40 minutes to feed a newborn.

Those numbers are in sync with what Hogg is saying for the amount of time spent eating.

If you breastfeed, take note that initially, your milk supply will not be up yet. This means your little one will have less breast milk to get since there will only be a small amount, so the time spent eating might be less in those first several days.

If your baby starts to just play with the nipple, she is done feeding.

Remember that with a newborn, you are working to build your milk supply so you have enough milk for the duration of breastfeeding.

Sleep Is Not A “Full” Sign

A baby falling asleep is not a sign that the baby is full–especially in a breastfed baby. This is also especially true with newborns, who are notoriously sleepy.

Most breastfed babies will fall asleep about 10 minutes into a feeding because of oxytocin in the milk (page 99). Oxytocin can make you and your baby sleepy.

So when your newborn falls asleep when eating, do not assume this means she is full.

>>>Read: Keeping a Newborn Awake During Feedings

Count Sucks

One sign that infants are done with one side is how many sucks she takes before swallowing.

I read somewhere, and I think it was in a Baby Whisperer book but I don’t see it so I am not sure, that if baby is sucking more than 4 or 5 times before swallowing, you can switch sides.

After the initial letdown, the baby will start to “suck, suck, suck, swallow.” If baby is just sucking with no swallowing, then she is asleep. If she is sucking a lot of times before swallowing, then it is time to switch sides.

Watch Growth and Disposition

One of the best ways to know if your baby is getting enough food is to watch growth patterns, diaper output, and also your baby’s disposition.

If she is content and sleeping well as well as growing, then she is eating long enough. If she is staying on her growth curve, she is getting enough food. If she is sleeping well for naps and night, then she is getting enough food.

If she has a normal amount of wet diapers for her age, she is getting enough food. You also want to watch dirty diaper output–pay attention to the stools.

If the above things are not true, then she is either having a growth spurt or she needs to spend more time eating.

Note that watching growth and disposition is important to monitor your milk supply. If your supply is down, your little one might not eat as long. So if your little one is frustrating and trying to eat, check your milk supply.

And always look into milk production if weight gain becomes a concern.

Lip Tie and Tongue Tie

Feeding problems are not always associated with breast milk supply issue. Sometimes there can be problems because of a lip tie or tongue tie.

A tie makes it harder for your little one to eat, which wears him out faster and makes him sleepier. It can also make him gassy. It also makes it so the latch is not correct, which can hurt supply.

If you are having troubles, check this post out and talk to your baby’s doctor.

Signs of Hunger

If your little one is fussy, you might be wondering why and worry that it is tied to something with breast feeding. You might also wonder how to tell if your baby is hungry. See this post for help: Hunger Cues: How To Know if Baby Is Hungry

Always follow feeding cues. If your baby is hungry, feed her.

Real Life Examples

Several of my babies were very different eaters as newborns.

Brayden, my oldest, was a very slow nurser. I realized later that he often was falling asleep while nursing. I thought he was taking forever, but he was really catnapping.

Even once I got him to stay awake and eat, he took around 40 minutes to eat, putting him on the long end of the range discussed above.

Then Kaitlyn came along. She was a super fast breastfeeder. She was at or below the fastest recommendations for time listed above basically from birth. However, she was growing well, sleeping well, and her diaper output was on track. She had lots of baby rolls, even though she had reflux, so I knew she was getting the food she needed.

McKenna, my third, was in between the two. She was right at average. Brinley was the same.

Each baby is different and it will take you some time to learn what each baby needs after she is born.

Key Newborn Feeding Points

There are some important things to remember as you feed your baby.

One is to wake your newborn to feed. When it is time to eat, wake up your baby to eat.

Time between feeding should be 2.5-3 hours for most newborns.

Another is to keep your baby awake for the feeding. Do your best to keep baby awake and have some playtime afterward. For young newborns, “playtime” might be as short as a diaper change before it is nap time again.

Remember that feeding time is part of your newborn’s wake time, so that is one reason you want to keep baby awake for feedings. Another is that it enables you to make sure baby gets a full feeding.

Setting up a newborn feeding schedule is so helpful for you to have a general idea of what your baby should be doing when. To see sample schedules used by real babies, start with my first month newborn schedule post here. From there, you can get to every month of baby’s first year.

Finally, feeding a newborn is a lot of work! It takes all of your focus and energy to keep your newborn awake.

There will be feedings this proves to be impossible. The ideal is that baby is awake for the feeding, but when (yes, WHEN) that doesn’t happen and baby dozes instead, do not freak out! It will be fine. This is normal. Just try again the next feeding.

This hard work doesn’t last forever. The day does come that you can relax and even read while you feed your baby.


The good news is that while it takes some time to figure each individual baby out, you will get there and will be able to feed your baby with confidence. You don’t need to be an expert immediately. Have some patience with yourself. Pay attention to your baby and you will be able to figure things out.

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Things to know about newborn feedings graphic
mom nursing newborn

This post originally appeared on this blog January 2011

34 thoughts on “How Long Should a Newborn Feeding Last?”

  1. I went to a lactation support group with my baby boy. It was great – weigh him before nursing, weigh him after nursing, know that in 8 short minutes on one side, DS can chug a full 8 ounces. HIGHLY recommend something like this if you breastfeed – check your hospital to see if they have something similar. Also met some of my best mom friends there!

  2. My mom said that a couple generations ago, one of the major gifts that you would hope to receive at a baby shower was an infant scale. She said that most new moms had one. I would have loved to have one but I didn't even know that they were available!

  3. We have an infant scale, a hand-me-down from my aunt whose daughter is 1 year older than Tobias. I love it and it's pretty accurate too.

  4. I had the same experience as the first person. These time frames simply did not work for my baby. Beginning at 1 1/2 weeks, she drastically cut the time she nursed to 10 minutes TOTAL. I tried so hard to push her to nuse for a longer period as I wanted to make sure she had a full feed. I quickly learned to not push her to eat more when she was clearly not interested beecause she began to throw up after the times I tried feeding her more. I brought her in for a couple weight checks at the doctor to make sure she was gaining weight appropriately. It was stressful for me to compare her to the "ideal nursing length," as she nevcer met those time frames. She is now 7 1/2 weeks old and gaining weight exactly as she should. She now nurses for between 7 and 15 minutes.

  5. My firstborn would eat on both sides at each feed, about 15 minutes or sometimes more per side. When my son came along 6 weeks ago, it concerned me that he would only eat 7 minutes on one side and then he was done – he would be awake but wouldn't want anymore or the other side. But he started gaining weight quickly – by 4 days old he had gained 5oz from birth. Now at 6 weeks he has gained 4 pounds – still eating just as quickly but only eating every 2.5-3.5 hours (4 at night). Just shows how different every baby is.

  6. I was worried about this, too… my 4 week old is eating about 10 minutes, maybe 15 tops, from one side only at each feeding. I kept thinking it should be longer, but he seems completely satisfied and refuses to nurse any longer. Today I weighed him (using a kitchen scale that zeros out, and a cookie sheet to lay him on 🙂 ), and he's getting a good 4 oz. with each feeding, so he's doing fine!By the way, I just wanted to say thanks for all you've done with your blog. This is my 4th child… I did BW with my first but not my other 2, and with this one I was so busy and had so many health issues that I wasn't even thinking about life after the baby arrives. After 4 weeks of "I can't do this, I'm feeding every 1 1/2 hours!", a friend reminded me about BW and suggested I get my book out. I did, and then found your blog, and WOW what a difference! In just two days my son is in a full 3 hour schedule, with barely any crying when I put him down for naps (before, I was nursing him to sleep). All of a sudden, life is MUCH easier. Now I'm confident that I WILL have a life again when this LO is sleeping through the night in a few weeks. A thousand thank you's for the fabulous resource you've created!

  7. This is one of the big reasons I ended up pump feeding my first son. Once I worked through the latching issues, he would only want to eat 5-7 minutes total. I thought he was probably getting just enough to take the edge off. But then when he would cry before nap I was too insecure that he was probably starving and so felt like I couldn't confidently do the BW routine AND breastfeed. He still ate breast milk for 10 months but boy did I do a lot of work for it. I think I'll buy an infant scale for the next!

  8. 4 minutes. I am not kidding. She ate 4 minutes. Total. She would not really eat from the second side. I had no idea she was supposed to eat for 20 minutes until several weeks after her birth. I don't know how I missed it since it's in every baby book, but I think I was so exhausted and focused on sleep training that I didn't even realize about the feeding time. She grew well and fast, and spit up an unearthly amount but had the right amount of wet and dirty diapers. She stopped nursing on the second side when we realized that she was getting a hindmilk/foremilk imbalance and it was affecting her digestion, so we just nursed from one side . Even writing this, I can't believe it was only 4 minutes. I think one time I remember it lasting for 7 minutes. I always wanted her to nurse longer so that it would take up more time. I had her fed and changed and then had a baby to entertain for 50 minutes. Sometimes that was hard.

  9. My first was a very slow eater….30-45 min at first. My second was a VERY FAST eater…3-7 mins TOTAL on one side only…she gets mad at me if I try to get her to eat more. Every child is different for sure!

  10. Thanks for sharing that Laura. That is a great point to take baby to the doctor for weigh-ins as often as you like. My pedi lets me do that whenever I want to.

  11. Good to read that other babies only eat for less than 10 minutes total. I was just starting to feel like quitting BW because my 5.5 month old doesn't eat normal. Anyone ever dealt with a baby who just does not like to eat?! He fights me every time I go to feed him EXCEPT if he is too tired to fight. He wakes up in the morning and will not eat. He refuses. Until 2 hours later, he finally gets so hungry that he eats, but by that time, he is tired because it's nap time, and falls asleep. Then he wakes up 2 hours later and is not hungry. He gets hungry again around his next nap time. And he only eats for 3 or 4 minutes per side when he is awake and eating, and refuses to eat for longer.I have tried pumping after he eats for a few minutes, and there's nothing. So he must be draining me and getting everything he needs! I do have a fast let down. And he is growing, gaining weight, making wet diapers, and is healthy. But I just hate fighting with him every feeding. Anyone else deal with this and any suggestions to get him to eat when he's supposed to?

  12. Annette, the only time I have heard of a baby fighting is 1) reflux or 2) baby is old enough that he would rather play than eat. If it is 1, talk to a doctor.If it is 2, try nursing in an area without any distractions–or as little as possible. My mother-in-law always talks about how she had to go into a dark room to nurse some of her kids because they got distracted too easily.

  13. My first baby was pretty textbook, nursing 15 minutes on each side, and pretty much ate every 3 hours from birth. My second is now a week old (I know I shouldn't be stressing about this because she's only a week old) but I'm really trying to prevent the "snack" eating. She nurses for about 10-15 minutes on one side and then refuses to nurse at all on the other. Sometimes if I pull her off around the 10 minute mark she will suck a minute or two on the other side. Also, if I wait about 15-20 minutes, she will usually take the other side willingly. She's not asleep, she's just refusing to nurse. Do I keep waiting 20 minutes and then retrying? Or just let her have the one side if she's satisfied? Weight gain is great, and she will usually go about 3 hours between feedings. But I'm worried about my milk supply and my nipples are too sore to pump.

  14. ok update from my last comment…she is still only taking one side at each feeding, and on the rare chance she does nurse on both sides, she throws it all up, so I'm guessing she is getting plenty from just one side. It's just hard for me to think she's getting a full feeding because BW stresses the 15 min per side, and she only nurses from one side for about 10 minutes. Right now she is doing about 9 feedings in a 24 hour period, which would be normal for her age. She has started to wake up for feedings on her own around the 2.5 hour mark instead of needing to be woken. At night she goes 3 hours, usually 11, 2, 5, and 8. Then 2.5 hours pretty much all day. Should I continue to offer the second side? I don't want to force it but I'm afraid she won't go to a 3 hour schedule without eating from both sides.

  15. Janna, it is pretty common for a newborn to be satisfied with one side. The baby whisperer actually advocates single-side feedings.Personally, I would offer the second side after she is done with side one, but I wouldn't stress if she doesn't want it.

  16. My 4 week old has recently started waking early from almost every nap and eating only 25-30 minutes when he has been eating 40-45 (he is BF only). I've had him on a good schedule until now and I don't know how to get him back on track. Right now he gets 8 feedings a day and wakes every 2.5-3 hours. Should I switch him to a 3 hour schedule with 7 feedings a day? He was only eating once around 2:30 am but now he's waking me 2-3 times a night to feed, yet he falls asleep after 20 minutes and wont wake up despite all my efforts. Please help…this is so frustrating and exhausting for us both!!

  17. My daughter is 6 1/2 months old and has almost always only nursed for 3, 4, or 5 minutes at a time. I have a strong letdown so once she guzzles that, she's done and refuses to eat more. During her first couple months, I met with a lactation consultant who would weigh her before and after a feeding. She was taking in 2-3 oz in just three minutes. I'm not sure if she's still taking it that amount, but she usually is hungry before 3 hours. I feel like this may be what is primarily causing her "schedule" to be all over the place. I give her bottles every now and then but she doesn't seem to like them or take in much more with that either recently. Any ideas? I know a full feeding is key to getting eat/wake/sleep. I'm beyond ready to get a good routine down and not sure what I should do. Thanks!

  18. I have a sleepy newborn that takes 2 hours to feed for 15 mins on both sides (this includes attempting to wake her up and get her to latch). Now I'm wondering how long I should let her nap for after a feeding that takes this long because at this rate for the every three hours schedule it means I get zero rest in-between the feedings and her naps are super short. Thoughts?

    • Read through my post that is linked in this one, nursing a newborn, keep baby awake! wouldn't feed for over two hours. I am sure you are trying to keep baby awake, but I would put full focus and energy into keeping baby awake (no books, no television, no cell phone browsing), and put a limit to how long the "feeding" lasts. Most of the time, your baby is sleeping, not eating. Be aware of the real rhythm of eating (suck, suck, suck, swallow, etc–this is faster during your letdown). Eating is constant. Sleeping will be a "suck" an indetermined number of times and then sit for a bit. Or it can be a constant sucking motion without pausing to swallow. Just be sure your baby is awake.

  19. Hey Val, I am on child #3 and have used Babywise/Baby Whisperer and your blog for both of my first 2 children (girls). They were both awesome sleepers and now I am on baby #3 (first boy) and we are struggling! I don’t know if I am just not remembering what I did those last 2 times, but we are having trouble with this guy. He nurses much longer than my girls did (they both would chug for 5-8 minutes per side and after 2 sides, be done with a 10-15 minute total feeding) and he can eat 15-20 minutes per side. Once we finish a feed, waketime is already at 35-45 minutes with burps between sides, etc. So optimal waketime calculating has been tough! I want him to have some open eye, interactive time with us with some tummy time, etc. but if we keep him awake for a little while, it seems we can’t get him sleepy and ready for a nap. Then, when we try to lay him down, despite swaddling, shushing, light bounching, etc he protests loudly and violently! Then he starts rooting acting like he’s hungry again. Help on how to get this poor guy taking naps. He is only 2 weeks old today, so maybe we are just early and need to let him sleep right after his feed with no stimulation? I just feel like that breaks the babywise feed/wake/sleep rule. Please help! Any thoughts or advice would be great! We have been struggling with feeding every 2ish hours with some of those times not having naps and I know that’s not good for him. Thanks so much!

    • Definitely try having him go right to nap after feeding. HE is now almost two weeks older, so he might not need right away anymore, but he is eating the length of a typical waketime length for newborns.

      One thing I would recommend is making sure he is actually eating that whole time and not taking little power naps. If he is, he will not be able to fall asleep when it is time for nap.

  20. I’m expecting my baby in 4 weeks and am planning on doing babywise. I’ve loved your blog! My question is, my baby has severe growth restriction, so will be super small. I may have to do triple feeding (breastfeed for 10 minutes, then bottle fed by my husband while I pump) for a week or two. I’m worried her size will mess up babywise for me. Any thoughts on how I can still start babywise routines with a super small baby who needs extra food? Thank you!

    • You will initially want to focus on just following doctor’s orders to get her on track for growth. If you are able to follow an eat/wake/sleep cycle with that, do that. Focus on independent sleep skills (make sure you see The Four S’s: ). You will be able to have success, but you might find time tables delayed. There are a lot of medical things that can delay a baby. One is reflux. I had a reflux baby and it just changes your expectations and hopes. So you just need to have a good perspective and understand things will take longer. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but patience will help you out!


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